Can Pekka Rinne Bounce Back?
If you were looking for a blueprint on how to be a successful National Hockey League franchise, the Detroit Red Wings would have to be your first stop. You wouldn't get much argument from hockey fans that Detroit has been a model of consistency over the last two decades, since they have made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons. Being that good for that long requires great players, coaching, and top of the line scouting, since you often draft late in the first round.
So after Detroit, who would be next on the list when it comes to consistency? Well, it wouldn't be crazy to suggest their division rival the Nashville Predators. At least over the past decade anyway. The Preds have made the playoffs in seven of the past nine seasons, and have had the same coach and general manager throughout their entire existence. If that's not consistency, I don't know what is.
Not only that, but Nashville hasn't had a Top 5 draft pick in almost fifteen years, and their payroll is almost always near the bottom of the NHL. Getting the results they have been able to achieve is truly remarkable.
With that being said though, Nashville suffered through a difficult season in 2013 and failed to make the playoffs. Whether it was the shortened year, the loss of key components, or injuries, the Predators definitely didn't look like themselves. One such player who had an off year was goaltender Pekka Rinne. Coming off two straight Vezina nominations, Rinne's numbers took a hit in 2013 and he finished with a save percentage of .910, a career low. Not that his numbers were horrible this season, but they are not the type of statistics Nashville and Rinne owners are accustomed to.
Despite his less than stellar play this year, what are the chances that this was just an anomaly for Rinne, as opposed to a trend? Can poolies trust Rinne as a top five goalie for next season?
To answer that, we need to look at team variables that changed in 2013, as well as Rinne's play itself. Losing a defenseman of Ryan Suter's caliber is obviously going to have a negative impact on any goaltender's